Lao PDR and Philippines collaborate to discuss best practices on Environmental and Social Impact Assessments
In early May this year, delegates from the Government of Lao PDR visited the Philippines to exchange lessons and experiences on the issue of environmental and social impact assessments (ESIA) and monitoring of foreign and domestic investments. The mission’s objective was to strengthen the capacity of Department of Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (DESIA) of the Lao Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) to review, approve and monitor the compliance of investment projects in Lao PDR. In recent years, the Government of Lao PDR has made significant strides toward enhancing regulatory clarity, procedures and coordination for ESIA of investment projects across the country. Although investments in key natural resource–based sectors are expected to generate economic growth, they also potentially come at heavy costs to local communities and the environment. This series of meetings organized by PEI adds to the steady momentum building up for sustainable investments and business in the region.
Since 2011, PEI in Lao PDR has been focused on improving the approval, management and monitoring of foreign investments in the country. Led by the Ministry of Planning and Investments and in collaboration with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Lao PDR has made significant jumps in the ESIA process over the last few years. In 2013, building on various advocacy efforts and strategic support, the Government passed Ministerial Instructions no. 8029 and no. 8030/MONRE that make it mandatory for investment projects to carry out environmental impact assessments before the approval of such projects is granted. The experience of policy making and building capacity in the Government to ensure the efficient movement of the EIA process has brought with it various valuable lessons, some of which were shared with the Government of the Philippines during this visit.
A 12 member delegation from Lao PDR visited the Government of the Philippines between the 4th and 7th of May. The delegation included members from the Department of Environment and Social Impact Assessment under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Lao PDR while the Philippines was represented by members from the Environmental Impact Assessment Division of the Environmental Management Bureau, the Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment Division of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the International Investments Promotion Service (IIPS).
The exchange presented an interactive platform to share valuable lessons learned on involving local communities in the investment management and the monitoring process. This is highly pertinent as both countries are currently revising their respective guidelines on public involvement. Another relevant theme discussed
was the efficiency, opportunities and challenges of self-monitoring procedures instituted in companies vis a vis inspections by government agencies. The departments also had the opportunity to address issues of strategic prioritization for monitoring. By scoring investment projects according to their level risk of environmental and social impacts, high risk projects are prioritized and investment monitoring becomes more efficient.
PEI in Lao PDR in its efforts to strengthen the ESIA process has provided greater clarity and technical expertise to shaping the quality of Initial Environmental Examination (IEE) and EIA reports. This has helped make the issuance of the Environmental Compliance Certificate a more robust and streamlined process.
Speaking about the exchange, Deputy Director General of DESIA Mr. Thavone Vongphosy said, “Due to our status as co-members of ASEAN and, in particular, the new opportunities and challenges which will come with further cooperation in the context of the ASEAN Economic Community, inter-governmental exchange with the Government of the Philippines on the topic of environmental impact assessment and monitoring is essential, as both countries move toward greater economic growth, sustainability and the promotion of quality investments. We found the mission to be fruitful in the promotion of cooperation and in giving us the opportunity to share experiences and lessons-learned from each respective country.”